Tag:Dontrelle Willis
Posted on: July 7, 2011 8:18 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 8:47 pm
 

Reds change course, Willis to start Sunday

By Matt Snyder

Just a day after leaving Dontrelle Willis in the minors, the Reds have optioned Edinson Volquez and Paul Janish to Triple-A. In return prospect shortstop Zack Cozart will join the Reds and get the majority of the starts at short and Willis is going to take the hill for the Reds Sunday (Reds Blog).

This will be the second stint in Triple-A this season for Volquez, even though he was the Reds' opening day starter. He has struggled across the board, with a 5.93 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, 55 walks and 15 home runs allowed in just 85 innings. You have to wonder how much longer the Reds will let Volquez struggle before just shipping him off. They have lots of starting pitching options and he likely has some trade value considering his one really good season wasn't that long ago.

Willis, 29, is a two-time All-Star who once finished second in Cy Young voting (2005), but had fallen on really hard times the past few seasons. He's 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 75 1/3 Triple-A innings this season.

Cozart, 25, was hitting .310 with 26 doubles, seven home runs, 32 RBI and nine steals for Triple-A.

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Posted on: July 6, 2011 7:02 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2011 9:22 pm
 

No promotion for Willis just yet

By Matt Snyder

When Dontrelle Willis was scratched from his scheduled start for the Reds' Triple-A affiliate, there was much speculation that he was headed to Cincy. After all, Willis is 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 13 starts and most of the Reds' big-league rotation -- namely Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Travis Wood -- has struggled this season. And it's not like Willis is a prospect where his major-league upside is unknown. He's a two-time All-Star who won the Rookie of the Year in 2003 and was Cy Young runner-up in 2005. So being scratched from a Triple-A start might have been the sign that the Reds were ready to bring him up. Reds' manager Dusty Baker even hinted that something was afoot (John Fay via Twitter) earlier Wednesday.

In the end, though, Willis is actually going to pitch in relief Wednesday night for the Louisville Bats while Wood gets the start. Volquez will start Sunday for the Reds (Fay on Twitter), so Willis won't get a look with the major-league club until after the All-Star break.

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Category: MLB
Posted on: May 22, 2011 6:22 pm
 

Volquez's spot in rotation in jeopardy

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Edinson VolquezThe Reds are "mulling" Edinson Volquez's spot in the rotation after not only his bad start on Sunday against the Indians, but his even worse choice of words following the game, John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

After giving up four first-inning runs and seven runs (six earned) in 2 2/3 inning on Sunday, Volquez attacked the team's offense.

"Everybody has to step up, start to score some runs," Volquez said after the game. "In the last five games, how many runs have we scored? Like 13? That's not the way we were playing last year. We're better than that."

He's not wrong -- well, except that it's 12 runs in the last five games -- but he's not exactly earned the right to bring that message.

The Reds have trailed in all 11 of Volquez's starts this season and he's given up 21 first-inning runs this season. He's usually settled down (as his total of 38 runs allowed shows). On Sunday he didn't, allowing another run in the second and two more in the third.

Reds manager Dusty Baker said the team may consider demoting Volquez from the rotation.

"We're mulling that around now," Baker said (via MLB.com's Mark Sheldon.) "Last time, he was a lot better. This outing, he didn't start off well again. We've got to discuss what to do."

Sam LeCure has excelled as a long-man for the Reds and pitched better in relief than as a starter. At Triple-A, the team has Matt Maloney, who is 2-1 with a 4.45 ERA in five starts, Mike Leake who is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA in one start since being sent down and Dontrelle Willis, who is 3-1 with a 2.72 ERA. Willis left his outing Saturday when he was struck in the leg by a batted ball.

Volquez does have options remaining, so he could be sent down if the team wishes to do that.

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Posted on: April 21, 2011 8:37 pm
 

A look at the best Triple-A performers

Willis

We're approaching the time in baseball where it's time to pay attention to Triple-A performances, as they will start impacting decisions on promotions and demotions.

In fact, it's already started as Jerry Sands was promoted to be the Dodgers' new left fielder after bashing five home runs in 10 games for Triple-A. Here's a look at some of the hottest performers down one rung of the ladder.

HITTERS

Anthony Rizzo, Padres -- Rizzo is hitting a ludicrous .436/.483/.764 in 60 plate appearances, bashing four home runs as a 21-year-old. Rizzo was supposed to be a legitimate prospect, but it appears as if he may have taken a major step forward this year to make Padres fans quickly forget about losing Adrian Gonzalez. With Brad Hawpe flailing, the Padres may want to call up Rizzo as soon as the calendar flips to June and it becomes unlikely he can qualify for arbitration as a Super Two player. At the very least, Rizzo's all but locked up making his big-league debut at some point this season.

Scott Sizemore, Tigers -- As the Tigers scuffle to find a solution at second base, the answer is staring at them in Toledo. Sizemore, who was supposed to become Detroit's second baseman last season before a broken leg dashed his hopes, is off to a .389/.463/.556 start in 41 PA. The Tigers will be forced to make a move at some point as they're already moving away from Wil Rhymes to Ryan Raburn. Raburn's shifting over from left to get Brennan Boesch's hot bat in the lineup, so Detroit will delay any decision a little while longer.

Wily Mo Pena, Diamondbacks -- A nice comeback story, as Pena famously cranked 26 home runs for the Reds back in 2004 as a 22-year-old, was traded to Boston with a heap of expectations, bombed spectacularly and eventually found himself in the independent leagues. The Padres gave him a flier last season in Triple-A after his indy stint, which went so well he got an offer from the Diamondbacks where currently leads the PCL in home runs with six and is just one behind the leader for overall Triple-A superiority. The 29-year-old needs to keep it up a bit longer and show he can actually hit a breaking pitch this time around, but if he keeps up this production, Arizona will find room for him in a hurry.

PITCHERS

Julio Teheran, Braves -- Teheran can't even drink yet, but he's baffling Triple-A hitters by posting a 1.69 ERA over 16 innings. His strikeout numbers are way down as his 11/6 K/BB rate suggests, but that will eventually rise. Considered one of, if not the, best pitching prospect in the game, Atlanta is ridiculously deep so it's possible they hold him back the entire year especially given his age, but this much is certain thus far in Teheran's career: you can't count him out, and he will eventually hold the top spot in the Braves' rotation.

Dontrelle Willis, Reds (pictured) --  Willis couldn't make the Reds out of spring training as a left-handed reliever, so he headed to the farm to function as a starter. And he's doing quite well, twirling 17 innings of one-run ball and punching out 15 while walking five. Let's not hop back on the D-Train just yet, but it's fantastic to see a good guy who fell on hard times start to figure things out again. The Reds rotation figures to undergo quite a few changes as the year progresses, so Willis could figure into the situation by year's end.

Brad Mills, Blue Jays -- Toronto has jettisoned Jesse Litsch and Brett Cecil from the rotation in the last few days, so Mills may be the first on this list to get the call to the majors. The 26-year-old has a career 7.80 ERA in the majors over 30 innings but seems to have figured things out this year. He has a sparkling 0.82 ERA in three starts. While his strikeout rate of 7.0 batters per nine is lower than his minor-league career mark of 8.6, his BB/9 is down from a career line of 3.3 to 2.0. Yeah, that'd do it. If Toronto doesn't shift reliever Marc Rzepczynski back to the rotation to fill the void, bet on Mills getting the call.

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Posted on: March 27, 2011 3:29 pm
Edited on: March 27, 2011 3:55 pm
 

All of a sudden, Reds rotation a mess

By Matt Snyder

The defending NL Central champions entered camp with at least six viable starting pitchers: Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo, Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake. Some fans may have even inexplicably thought Dontrelle Willis had a chance of impressing, but he's been moved to the minors (it was announced Sunday via press release, forgive me for yawning).

It did, however, look like an embarrassment of riches, especially if you looked from the angle that Volquez was far enough away from Tommy John surgery to fully return to form and Cueto, Wood, Leake and Bailey were young enough to expect improvement.

Instead, Bailey will start the season on the DL, Cueto is headed that way and Arroyo has mono. As a result the fairly anonymous Sam LeCure is going to begin the season in the rotation.

Wood has thrown the ball relatively well this spring for the most part, but he's the exception.

Leake has been dreadful, having allowed 27 hits, 16 earned runs and seven walks against just four strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings. Yes, that's a 9.39 ERA and 2.22 WHIP. This is fresh off a season that saw him go 3-4 with a 6.47 ERA after the first week of June, so there has to be plenty of concern.

Volquez has been pretty bad himself (8.38 ERA and 2.38 WHIP), to the point that he was talking about how great he felt after a lackluster effort last time out.

We shouldn't put a ton of stock in all spring numbers, but for young guys trying to get back in the groove or players working back from injuries, they matter to some extent. I'm sure Dusty Baker would rather have everyone throwing it well, that's for sure. The good news is nothing that's happened thus far counts and that the injuries all appear to be pretty minor. Everything could work itself out by the middle of April -- and it's a long season.

Still, within just over a week, starting pitching has gone from a strength to a big question mark for the Reds.

Just goes to show how precious starting pitching is, doesn't it?

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 11:10 pm
 

3 up, 3 down for 3/17: St. Patrick's Day edition

By C. Trent Rosecrans

Dontrelle Willis3 UP

1. Dontrelle Willis, Reds -- Not only did Willis pitch a scoreless inning to lower his spring ERA to 2.84, he also tripled and scored a run off of Indians' opening day starter Fausto Carmona.

2. Jason Heyward, Braves -- After missing the last five games with back discomfort, Heyward had a two-run homer and scored twice. He's hitting .440 this spring.

3. Jake Fox, Orioles -- The Orioles catcher had two homers in Thursday's 13-3 victory over Pittsburgh. He now has seven this spring, including four in the last three games. Still, manager Buck Showalter said defense will determine whether he makes the club out of spring.

3 DOWN

1. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox -- Boston's closer has had a terrible spring -- and it wasn't any better on Thursday. For the second time this spring, he was lifted in the middle of an inning, allowing four runs on two hits in 2/3 of an inning. He's now 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA this spring.

2. Cliff Lee, Phillies -- Lee gave up homers to Toronto's Juan Rivera and Edwin Encarnacion in a five-run fourth inning. Only three of those runs were earned, but he's given up six earned runs in his last two starts. Just a hunch, but I think he'll be OK.

3. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies -- Coming into Thursday's game against the White Sox, Jimenez hadn't given up a run all spring. He gave up seven on at Salt River Fields on eight hits.

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Posted on: March 13, 2011 11:15 am
Edited on: April 18, 2011 11:35 am
 

Pepper: Gordon's last shot?

Alex Gordon
By C. Trent Rosecrans

Remember when Alex Gordon was the next George Brett? Royals fans sure do.

Now, though, the former second-overall pick in the draft, is an afterthought in the deep, talented Royals system.

Taken ahead of the likes of Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki, Gordon has a career line of .244/.315/.355 in 1,641 plate appearances in the big leagues and has since been moved from third base to the outfield.

While no longer one of the core building-blocks of the Royals rebuilding job, Gordon still has some talent (and a little trade value). He's also starting to get hot in the Cactus League, going 8 for 12 in his last five games. He's also shown good plate discipline, drawing 11 walks.

"The timing was off. I was seeing the pitches good, I was just late and not making solid contact," Gordon told MLB.com. "Lately, I've been getting easy earlier and seeing pitches better and making good contact, and that's what it's all about. So definitely a big change in the last week."

Gordon, 27, spent his offseason working with Royals hitting coach Kevin Seitzer, someone who knows a little bit about living in the shadow of the Royals' lone Hall of Fame player. Seitzer's emergence at third base moved Brett from third base to first in 1987 and even made the All-Star team as a rookie. Seitzer has been the team's hitting coach since 2009.

"I think I've pulled my hands back so I'm loaded instead of trying to find the load during the swing. I'm ready to go right off the bat," Gordon said. "I think that's helped, and I'm not late on pitches anymore, and I'm being aggressive."

With the Royals throwing out a placeholder roster for 2011 before the prospects begin to trickle in later this summer, Gordon may be getting his last chance to prove he's more than a Four-A player. Soon, that Royals influx of talent could make him the next Clint Hurdle in Royals history.

SILVA ON THE BLOCK: Three Nationals scouts, among others, watched the Cubs' Carlos Silva in his latest spring training start, ESPNChicago.com's Bruce Levine writes.

According to Levine, the Nationals and Yankees have had scouts at each of Silva's outings. Both teams are looking to fill their rotation and could afford Silva's $12 million salary.

Chicago has had good spring showings from Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, making Silva expendable.

Dave MartinezHAIR CLUB FOR MEN: With Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez now Rays, manager Joe Maddon wants his team to follow the example of his newest stars.

"I encourage the growth of follicles," Maddon told the St. Petersburg Times. "I want them all to go nuts with their hair this year."

Although Ramirez is known for his long dreadlocks and Damon is now sporting a fauxhawk, the inspiration for his goal of being "the hirsute club" was bench coach Dave Martinez's bushy beard (pictured).

"Sometimes I just go with my instincts, and I just think it could turn into a lot of fun for the group," Maddon said, noting he'll let his hair grow out as much as possible. "So whatever keeps you focused on the field and having fun off it, I'm all for it."

FORMER CUBS OK: The Chicago Tribune caught up with former Cub Micah Hoffpauir, who is now playing in Japan.

"My first earthquake," Hoffpauir told the Trib. "And good Lord willing, it will be my last."

Hoffpauir, now a member of the Nippon Ham Fighters, was in his room on the 26th floor of his hotel in Tokyo when the earthquake hit, approximately 250 miles to the north.

"It felt like someone started shaking the whole country of Japan," Hoffpauir said. "At one point I thought, this building is going to fall down. But I was assured later that [swaying] is what the building was supposed to do."

He said he was evacuated from his hotel and was able to contact his wife in Texas to let her know he was OK. He said he has also been in touch with former Cub teammate Matt Murton, who was training further south in Osaka, and he was OK.

GARFOOSE FUNDRAISER: Author and Rays reliever Dirk Hayhurst will call you up and thank you personally if you donate $50 or more to Mercy Corp Fundraising for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. (DirkHayhurst.com)

HIDDEN TREASURE: Investigators found a jackpot of 1986 Mets memorabilia in a  Port St. Lucie storage facility following their case of former Mets clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels.

Samuels is accused of theft and illegal gambling.

Among the treasure found in the storage facility was signed uniforms from the 1986 Mets team that defeated the Red Sox in the World Series. The collection is reportedly worth "hundreds of thousands of dollars." (New York Daily News)

SIZEMORE GETTING CLOSER: Indians manager Manny Acta said he thinks center fielder Grady Sizemore is scheduled to start running bases today and could be cleared to play in games sometime in the last 10 days of spring training. (MLB.com)

D-TRAIN OFF THE RAILS: Dontrelle Willis left Saturday's game with a sprained ankle, tripping on a bat after backing up the plate on Bobby Scales' two-run single. Willis had a rough outing, allowing two hits and two walks while recording just a single out. (MLB.com)

THANK YOU, COME AGAIN: Commissioner Bud Selig said Saturday that the stake in the Diamondbacks once owned by Padres chief executive Jeff Moorad has been sold. Current Arizona managing general partner Ken Kendrick absorbed the eight percent of the Diamondbacks  for $21 million. Moorad's group owns 49 percent of the Padres. (MLB.com)

HARDEN OUT OF ROTATION MIX: Rich Harden is officially out of the race for the Athletics' fifth-starter sport. Harden could still find a spot in the bullpen, but it's getting crowded too. Brandon McCarthy, Tyson Ross and Bobby Cramer are still competing for the fifth starter spot, with the losers then looking to make the bullpen. (San Francisco Chronicle)

STATS FOR DUMMIES: The great Joe Posnanski gives you a primer on advanced offensive statistics. (JoePosnanski.com)

LINEUP CONSTRUCTION: Little has more breath and keystrokes wasted on it more than lineup construction. It's a fan's favorite nitpick to show why their manager is an idiot, yet it doesn't really matter that much in the long term. (Although, it makes the most sense to get your better hitters at the the top of the order, because they get the most at-bats). But anyway, Astros manager Brad Mills discusses his philosophy for filling out his lineup card. (Houston Chronicle)

RAYS RESURRECTION: Former top pick Matt Bush is making a comeback in Tampa's training camp. (Tampa Tribune)

BASEBALL PROJECT: If you missed our Ear on Baseball podcast with the Baseball Project, what's wrong with you? Seriously?

Anyway, you can catch up with Scott McCaughey, who says despite touring the world with various rock bands, he's always kept up with baseball because it's a "a sort of zen thing for me" and reading boxscores is "like meditation" -- I think we can all understand that. (Athens Music Junkie)

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Posted on: February 24, 2011 4:06 pm
Edited on: February 24, 2011 5:13 pm
 

R.I.P. Dontrelle's leg kick

Dontrelle Willis

Dontrelle Willis had one of the most distinctive pitching motions in baseball, one that was long-credited with his success, but no more.

John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted today from Willis' live-BP session and said his "high leg kick is gone."

With Willis' recent struggles, it seems like it's time to try something.

Once one of baseball's great ambassadors, Willis and his funky pitching motion burst onto the scene in 2003, winning 14 games as a rookie and appearing in the All-Star game. Two years later he won 22 games and finished second in the Cy Young Award voting.

In his first four seasons, Willis was 58-39 with a 3.44 ERA; the last four seasons, he's gone 13-24 with a 5.81 ERA. 

Fay reported positive results from Willis' round of BP (yeah, we know, way too early to draw any conclusions), but yet it made me sad for one of my favorite windups.

Other great ones:

Tim Lincecum -- a don't try this at home for kids, but when it looks this cool (and the results are like this), it's tough not to try it.

Tim Lincecum

Orlando Hernandez -- a similar high leg kick as Willis, but his hands are low instead of high and he would look backwards, like Luis Tiant. Add to that an arm slot as predictable as Lost, well, it's always fun to see what El Duque had on tap.

Orlando Hernandez

Hideo Nomo -- loved the throw-back with the hands high over his head motion.

Hideo Nomo

Of course, further back you have great ones in Dan Quisenberry, Luis Tiant, Fernando Valenzuela, Bob Feller and Juan Marichal. 

UPDATE: Fay followed up on his tweet, talking to Reds pitching coach Bryan Price about the lack of leg kick.
“That was pretty much gone when I started working with him,” Price said. “He had been working on that in Detroit. He wasn’t a reclamation project. We just really working on tightening things up.”
-- C. Trent Rosecrans
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